In the cold, dark evening after Christmas, Holy Apostles Orthodox Christian Church was a warm beacon of light that radiated off of Hynds Boulevard. The faithful gathered at 5:00 p.m. for the annual Christmas party, which included a potluck supper and games.
The fellowship hall was filled with laughter and joy as the food was laid out on tables along the wall. Ranging from chicken wings, meatballs, mac and cheese, to desserts of all kinds. This feast is a very welcome joy amongst the faithful after 40 days of fasting.
“Going back all the way to the Old Testament, we see in the life of Christ that He withdrew from the noise and the difficulties and the city and He used the fasting period as a period to prepare Himself and we do the same in this sense too,” Father Christopher Xanthos, the Parish Priest, said. “As a way to purify our mind, our body, to cleanse us and to be less reliant on food and to rely on God as the Bread of Life.”
The party began with a reading from 12-year-old Max Zaharas that set the tone for the preparation of the blessing of the food for the banquet.
“[The prayer] talked about how Christ came into the world for us and that we are blessed to have the food that we have today and the lives that we do today because of His sacrifice,” Zaharas said.
The blessing of the food is an important act for the Orthodox faithful that goes back to the teachings of the Holy Bible.
“We give thanks to God for all, and such prayer is based in Scripture of offering glory and thanks to God for what He has provided for us,” Father Christopher said. “We’re asking God to use it for His glory by offering us sustenance and strength.”
After Father Christopher blessed the food, the wonderful aroma from the myriad of delicacies was an instant attraction for the faithful as they began to form a line down the tables, starting with the children.
There were over half a dozen round tables set up in the fellowship hall with a beautiful Christmas tree in the background, where everyone gathered to sit, eat and talk about family and the meaning of Christmas.
“Christmas is all about Christ and we glorify Him and that’s what Christmas is all about for me and my family,” Timothy Joannides, founding member and parish council treasurer, said. “Growing up we spent a lot of time in church and this is one of the best memories I can remember.”
As the conversations continued, children could be heard laughing and playing in the adjacent rooms and running in and out of the fellowship hall.
One of the children of Holy Apostles, 6-year-old Isidora Horne, said that Christmas was important because it’s God’s birthday.
Jamie Pullos, a member of the parish council and event coordinator, led the way in organizing the fun for the party. Jamie had the adults and children all mixed together into teams. The games consisted of clever ways to utilize plastic cups such as stacking them on top of each other on tables, to see which teams could do it the fastest. Trivia games such as “catch phrase” was also played.
“I thought it was important to get people out of their seats and engaged,” Pullos said. “Especially with children and if the adults are helping them it helps to strengthen the relationship between the adults in the community and the children.”
The presence of children in a parish is vital to its balance and future. Therefore, Holy Apostles strives to encourage families in all different life stages, ranging from newborns to those who have kids in college.
“We’re all on our spiritual journey but in some ways children have a simplicity to their faith that adults need to recognize,” Pullos said. “I think that an act of growing a community is a lot like a Christmas tree and a Christmas tree needs to have a large base, that large base is their children and the young families. Anything we can do to encourage children and families, we need to make a priority at Holy Apostles.”
As the evening drew to an end, some continued to play games as others started cleaning up. With the feast of the Nativity over, Holy Apostles Orthodox Church is focusing on the next feast.
“Tomorrow we have the feast of St. Stephen and the holy innocent martyrs and of course every Sunday we have a feast, it’s a Pascha, an Easter, every single Sunday,” Father Christopher said.